Distributed Energy Resources

Study addresses blockchain, EV charging trust issues

A new study details how blockchain technology can be used to mitigate trust issues that pose a barrier for the proliferation of electric vehicle charging stations.

In the study, researchers at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, laid out the steps needed to build a blockchain-based system for collecting, storing and sharing ownership, payment and usage information for EV charging stations.

“Energy services are increasingly being provided by entities that do not have well-established trust relationships with their customers and partners,” Christian Gorenflo, a PhD candidate in Waterloo’s David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, said in a statement. “In this context, blockchains are a promising approach for replacing a central trusted party, for example, making it possible to implement direct peer-to-peer energy trading.”

A lack of trust among parties can hinder the spread of EV charging stations, the researchers said, noting the varied interests and lack of familiarity between charging service providers, property owners and owners of electric vehicles. But with an open blockchain platform, all parties would have access to the data and detect when the data has been altered or changed in any way. That would allow EV owners to see if they are being overcharged while property owners would know if they are being underpaid, the researchers said.

Blockchain is a digital ledger that can encapsulate data in secure packets that cannot be altered. Blockchain technology provides the basis for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

The study, Mitigating Trust Issues in Electric Vehicle Charging using a Blockchain, identified three steps necessary for the incorporation of blockchain technology into an energy system.

The first is to identify the parties involved and their level of mutual trust.

The second step is to design a minimal blockchain system, including smart contracts, that resolves the trust issues identified in the first step. If parts of a legacy system need to be replaced, the new system should closely mimic existing interfaces so that dependencies can continue to work with minimal modifications, the researchers said.

The third and final step is the implementation of a trust-mitigating blockchain application that would gradually replace the legacy systems being used and eventually replace a legacy/blockchain hybrid system with a fully decentralized system.

In the study, the researchers collaborated with an EV-charging service provider that works with property owners to install EV supply equipment that is used by EV owners for a fee. The revenue from the charging stations is shared between the charging service provider and each property owner. The EV supply equipment is operated by the charging service provider, so the property owners must trust the provider to compensate them fairly for the electricity used.

“Mitigating trust issues in EV charging could result in people who have charging stations and even those who just have an outdoor outlet being much more willing to team up with an EV charging service provider resulting in much better coverage of charging stations,” Gorenflo said.

Blockchain technology is being studied and tested for a variety of uses in the energy sector.

Developer Clearway Energy Group is working with Australian technology company Power Ledger to develop a blockchain platform for trading renewable energy credits (RECs).

In Illinois, Ameren and Opus One Solutions are testing blockchain technology to identify the value of distributed energy resources.

And in California, Silicon Valley Power and Power Ledger have completed the first stage of a program to test the use of blockchain technology for tracking and monetizing carbon dioxide reduction credits for charging electric vehicles.